#TCRN05 Race Report: Day 1 - 3

by

Lets do it
My primary objective for the #TCRN05 was just get around Europe hitting all the checkpoints in time in a semi-competitive spirt. Alongside that being safe and having fun! I mean I knew the whole thing would be a suffer-fest but still I wanted to smile and enjoy the amazing places I was riding through. Not stress myself by looking at track-leaders every hour seeing there was a rider close or approaching me. I knew when I could settle into a rhythm I would ride strong & hard.

Day 1.1 - Start/sleepy head

A hectic start to the TCRN05. My Mum and Dad kindly but cautiously drove me to the start of this crazy thing that I had invested so much time, money and spiritual energy into over the last 10 months. I think that they where unaware of the scale of the TCR, but I could not of done it without them. 




While cycling to the racer registration in Geraardsbergen. A dopey local driver managed to hit into me and my bike. Resulting in a seriously buckled front wheel and misaligned handlebar. Pissed off but physically in tact. I found the local bike shop which had a string off other panicking riders getting stuff fixed before the start of the ride of their lives. The guys where fantastic and got it sorted quick. Big ups S-Bikes!



Lots of waiting around at registration with lots of anxious faces. After the rider briefing it was a last carb-o-load meal with Mum and Dad. I felt surprising relaxed but eager to get pedalling. The start was epic as the whole town gets into the spirt of the race with fire lanterns. Go time! A gentle parade lap around the town of Geraardsbergen. Then bam! Hammer time up the Muur - a famous cobbled climb that was steep as fuck. Riders split after this into a binky LED mass, it was truly the start of the race now. It was full gas as I rode with a small peloton of fast guys all taking the same route. I managed about 110km but felt shattered. I wanted to nap. I know it was decisions like this that cost me lots of positions as many riders ride the first 24 hours with no sleep.
https://www.strava.com/activities/1107728638


Best bike bags I saw, handsdown


Day 1.2 – Belgium, Luxembourg & France

I woke at around 4am after about 3hours of quality sleep. I knew the race was on now rested with the sun was coming up. Even though I scarified probably 50miles and countless positions. I swiftly packed my kit away and got on the road. I saw a few other riders bivvy-ing around the side of the road which I found quite amusing. Coming to the realisation that this is it for the next 2 weeks, lads. This is going to be our lives. I found a sweet Bakery in Luxembourg? Or Belgium… and got some tasty treats and juice. Sugared up. I road hard and bumped into various other riders which was quite exciting and did create the atmosphere that I was into something big. I also manged to bump into the cool dude camera crew at a petrol station where other riders getting their resupply’s & coffee’s in. 



2 seconds of fame when caught by the camera crew. 1minutes 29 secs in
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYAwVWxmil4&t=129s


Rolling roads all day. Got my first taste of the European heat, it was tolerable today. Entered France at around 180km. Busy weekend roads. No navigation errors and everything seemed to be going smoothly. I stopped for a pizza in France and ate what was probably the worst pizza of my life. It tasted like burnt pubic hair on toast. Something I learnt on this day, never get a Pizza in France!

I bumped into another pair of riders at the pizzeria place. I forgot their names & numbers. They told me the news about Frank and how he was hit by car early that morning. Was horrific hearing about a death, especially the first 24hours into the race. It left me stunned with me not really knowing what to do. Do I quit the race? I had invested everything into this thing. If I quit now does that mean I will never ride a bike again? I thought of Frank & Mike and they would not want me to quit so I just kept going. The thought about death lingered with me the entire duration of the race. I came to accept it and that it’s an unfortunate part about riding bikes. So, safety became at the forefront of my ride.

I called it a day at 330km. I bivvy-ed about 40km from the border of Germany, in a field under the stars. 


https://www.strava.com/activities/1107961902

Day 2 – CP1

Started the day at 5am with a massive snickers and a sore arse. Some pleasant descending along empty roads to the German border. I faffed around for 25minutes waiting for a petrol station to open. A strange drunk French lady asked for my hand in marriage. I kindly declined her offer.

After passing through Germany I started to climb up the biggest mountain so far aka the Kniebisstra├če. Was great and really woke the ol’ legs up. It was a big boy at about 950meters. One of the many monster climbs that the TCR delivered. There was an amazing water fountain at the top of the climb delivering freezing crystal-clear water into my bidon. Long descend into what felt like Germany. Grabbed a pizza from a nice Pakistani bloke who spoke great English and wondered WTF I was doing cycling so far.




Elegant but tough

Few more sluggish climbs into the heat of the afternoon. It was a Sunday and the Germans had all their fast cars out, got a bit scary at times with a few close calls. I got to CP1 relieved & was about the 60ish person through. Was happy with that. Got my stamp and a pint coke that cost me 8! Photographer guy managed to get a dodgy shot of me & what was left of my pizza lunch. 
Still better than the French stuff

Didn’t get too comfortable as I knew I had to climb up to the bastard Liechtenstein Castle to truly claim my brevet stamp. Typically, tough climb in true Mike Hall style. Legs feeling good, although my bike felt heavy as fuck. Quick victory shot at the castle and then grabbed a cheeky ice cream for the descend down the big hill. 


CP1 Completed. Liechtenstein Castle, no time for smiles or selfies
A burst of energy hit me after getting to CP1 in appropriate time. Was ready for The Alps & Italy now. Started to head South with strong pace through more peaceful rolling German countryside. Got into a good rhythm as road surfaces were good and the roads got sleepy. Reminded me of Hampshire a bit. Darkness fell but found some extra power after discovering the best chocolate milk I have ever consumed! 1 Litre glass bottles of pure milk nirvana, SCHOKO MILCH!!! 


Simply the best

Big scary storm came in, rode on a bit to escape the storm then got tired. Bivvy-ed in a bus shelter to avoid getting soaked.



https://www.strava.com/activities/1109695841

Bivvy like a king
Day 3 – Austrian Alps

Bad storm and bad sleep. Woke at about 3:30am with what felt like a fat hairy sponge on my face; turned out to be a rat. Fucking disgusting! As I pushed, I heard it squeal away. First bad sleep and woke grumpy and shitty. Swallowed in deep and hard with the realisation that there was a lot more TCR miles to go and a lot more dodgier sleep. Got on bike with a very sore arse & everything was a damp. Low on water, food and self-esteem. Rode about 30km very slowly until I found a godsend of a petrol station in Kempten. Another nice bloke who spoke great English gave me lots of plump pastries, sandwiches and coffee. Cheers mate!

Another shocked and bewildered person when I explained what I was up to. I washed my face and brushed my teeth in the spotless toilet of the petrol station. It was little things that made me feel human again. Had another coffee and hit the road. I felt good after this caffeine injection and was ready for a new mountainous country, Austria ­čśÇ. 


Great morning for adventure
Bit more climbing and descending. It turned into a beautiful morning. Another resupply in Vils. Purchased cucumber, yogurt and biscuits. Strange combo but effective. 


Its important to have a sense of humour in the TCR.....

This part of my journey was defiantly the most technically challenging in terms of navigation and logistics. Roads started to get very complex weaving in and out of these epic valleys. A few wrong turns, scary tunnels and horribly busy roads. Fern pass. It was like cycling up a massive dual carriageway. It was fucking horrible. Busy with fat bikers and holiday makers. Defiantly was not the romantic image I had in my head of long alpine climbs. I had my high-vis firmly on for this segment of the ride. 



Fern pass.....
I managed to ditch the busy A-roads that afternoon and found myself on a network of cycle paths which were 80% gravel. It was okay as my bike & wide tyres could take the punishment. However, it was slow moving and frustrating at times. Getting slightly lost and having to improvise my route. Navigation fuck up at Telfs, and decided to ditch my route of taking B171 and back track to cross the river down smaller quieter roads. Turns out it was up another massive climb, which I was not really prepared for. After climbed I had to rest for 20minutes. Was feeling pretty worn out from the big climbs & busy roads. 


Steep cycle path climb with a rewarding view
I knew that I had to keep pressing on for Italy. So I booked myself a hotel in Italy for when Brenner pass had been conquered. This would give me something to look forward to. I really needed a bed & shower. I pushed on with the help of Haribo and started to climb Brenner pass. This thing was a bit of a monster at 30km’s long and 1500 meters in elevation. I swallowed in deep and popped in my 32-granny gear and spun comfortably to the top. Incredible bit of engineering and was amazed how they must of built the thing. Also known as the Europa Bridge. 1.8 million trucks pass through it annually. I think that day 2,000 certainty passed me. 
Busy Brenner; Overlooking the Italian side 
After I started descending down the Brenner pass into Italy, my sprits where immediately lifted. It was only 21:00 but I felt like I could treat myself and call it a day early at 230km’s. I had been up riding since 4am with 4,500meters of climbing....

Tired but pleased to be in Italy
Hotel was strange with a strange man. He seemed quite offended when I asked are you Italian and are we in Italy now? However, it was situated in a charming little place called Gossensab. Just 20km down the valley from the Brenner. Clean. I sat down in the restaurant and enjoyed a well-deserved pizza and a beer.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1110723065


Beer never tasted so good